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Interview with Dylan Scott - DevOps Engineer & Founder of Docker Southampton User Group

Interview with Dylan Scott

Nicole Doughton A Career in IT

Spectrum IT sponsor and host a range of technology user groups across Hampshire, Dorset and the South Coast. The purpose, to bring together IT professionals keen to share best practice and engage in discussion about technology and the future of their profession.

Dylan approached Spectrum IT back in 2017 with the ambition to set up a user group specifically focussed on Docker for Devops. Dylan, himself a Docker fanatic, wanted to build and grow the community of followers and help other people understand how to get the most from the technology and where it offers business value.

Here Spectrum IT enters a Q&A session with Dylan to find out what makes him tick and where the future lies for the Docker and Devops. 

How did your career start out?

My career started out in the web development sector - I started out in a small web development studio building real-time Javascript web applications. This focused on the full stack. My passion when I left University was Javascript and I found it amazing to work in a single language for frontend, backend and the data layer. Working in full-stack gave me the natural progression to Linux System Administration and from there ultimately DevOps. As it turned out it uncovered an area of technology I loved - working with cloud services and containers. I now work in a research operations company managing 8 Kubernetes production environments

What is a typical workday like?

A typical workday for me starts early! I get in around 8am and the first thing on my to-do list is to check monitoring and alerts for our environment, dealing with any issues from the weekend or overnight. Once this is out of the way my day goes one of two ways - responding to customer-facing tickets elevated from service desk or working on developing Infrastructure-as-Code or automation scripts and tools in Bash / Ansible. In between daily project tasks I spend my time reading my way around interesting cloud tools and services.

What tech tools/gadgets make your job easier and why?

Wow, there are far too many to mention! If I had to pick my top 3 they would be Kubernetes, Docker, and Terraform. Kubernetes is a large scale container orchestration engine which allows containers to run at scale. Creating a highly available containerised environment is hard! It makes our life easier because it takes the pain out of scheduling applications across multiple compute instances. It self heals and just works! Docker is the container engine which underpins Kubernetes and nearly everything I do runs inside a container. I love it because it packages an application in a neat unit that runs anywhere. This makes any work done completely portable and machine agnostic which is awesome. Finally, Terraform - Terraform is an Infrastructure-as-Code tool which allows you to script the deployment of cloud infrastructure. Historically infrastructure has always been configured by hand and when it needs repeating this is a challenge. Terraform takes the guesswork out of all of that for us, keeping our environments consistent.

What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most and what would you change or improve?

I love the architecting aspects of my role the most. Seeing a design on paper become a reality in infrastructure as code and automation is so rewarding and a real buzz. The most challenging side of my role is the operational aspect - alerting and diagnosing problems especially under the time pressure of SLA's. It goes with the territory of DevOps and like any other skill needs practise but I'll get there! 

How do you stay up to date with industry trends?

A variety of sources from tech-related websites such as The Register to watching YouTube videos from key players around the industry and browsing GitHub for DevOps tooling.

Docker Hampshire User Group Logo

Could you elaborate on what Docker Southampton is and the core purpose of the group?

Docker Southampton started by accident. I stumbled across Docker when working on an engineering project and loved it immediately. So I investigated the company and saw they ran a community platform. I applied and didn't think any more of it. A few weeks later I was interviewed by the Docker community leaders and they started the group for me. The primary purpose of the group is to get technical evangelists of container technology talking and sharing knowledge. Container usage has exploded in the industry and the demand for those skills is high. User groups like this really help. Above all I want people to learn a bit and have fun!

How are you involved?

I am the organiser and work closely with Spectrum IT as a sponsor to help the monthly meetups happen.

You are a regular speaker at Docker Southampton. What advice would you give to beginners?

Don't panic! Standing up in front of a group of people is scary but the more you deliver talks, the more confident you become. Try not to overreach on the talk content as you have limited time keeping the scope of the talk reasonable. If you have any technical demos make sure they are well practised and if things go south on you with the demo have a pre-recording in your back pocket. Lastly, maintain eye contact with your audience and relax.

How do you come up with speakers/topics for your talks?

Currently, because Docker is such a niche topic speakers are few and far between. It's largely through word of mouth and networking with people on social media. As for topics I am fairly relaxed as long as Docker features somewhere - We've had talks on more generalised DevOps tooling around containers which are very interesting. If you fancy speaking at one of our upcoming meetups, please get in touch.

When is the next Docker Meetup?

The next Meetup is on 29 November - the group meets on the last Thursday of every month. This month we have two speakers from IBM discussing Cloud Native Javascript with Docker - https://www.meetup.com/Docker-Southampton/events/255889233/

Who would you recommend in the IT community? Who has influenced you?

I would recommend checking anything out by Kelsey Hightower - He is a Kubernetes and Container guru. If you have a spare week check out Kubernetes - The Hard Way. It teaches Kubernetes with no automated deployment tools going a long way to understanding core components.

What is your next goal?

My next goal is to learn a virtualisation tool like OpenStack or KVM. I noticed that I always stand on the shoulders of cloud providers but never really delved into what's underneath. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

What advice would you give to people trying to get into the industry?

Find a technology stack you are passionate about and learn as much as you can to become an SME (Subject Matter Expert). It doesn't have to be DevOps. Always make time to practice your skills and pick up complimentary technologies. 

What do you do in your spare time?

I'm actually in a wheelchair and have recently taken up wheelchair fencing. I fence with a local group once a week. I'm not very good yet but it gets me away from a keyboard and active. When I'm not doing that I love listening to post rock bands, binge-watching Netflix or online gaming.